UGG CONTROVERSY: – Do Uggs Have Shatnez? [RAV DOVID FEINSTEIN, RAV SHLOMO MILLER, NEW LETTER FROM UGGS]

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com)

THREE NEW UPDATES AT END OF ARTICLE:

They come in boots, slippers and sneakers.

They are called Uggs and they are behind the first major Shatnez crisis of 2019. In the writing of this article the author has been in touch with three Shatnez laboratories (among them the well-respected Rabbi Yosef Sayag from the International Headquarters of Professional Shatnez Testers in Lakewood, NY) and the Uggs company itself.

On Monday alone, Uggs fielded over 500 inquiries from concerned Orthodox Jews.

The facts:

  • Seven models of Deckers Brands Uggs have, at times, presented with a problem of Shatnez. They are discussed below. All images and reports were compiled by the Shatnez Laboratory in Lakewood, NJ.
    • REPORT #1 – Blue Canvas sneaker Uggs (purchased from Zappos) have wool in the inner heel of the shoe. It is called UggWool by the company.  Linen fibers were found in the canvas.“I recently ordered these Ugg sneakers from Zappos. We noticed a sticker on the bottom that says it contains wool (as seen in the picture).I took it to be tested for Shatnez where they found linen fibers in the canvas. The wool couldn’t be removed (even though it’s only in the inner heel of the shoe) as it was sewn in strongly and he didn’t think all of it could be removed. As these are a popular style shoe, I wanted to let readers know about this Shatnez issue.”

    • REPORT #2 – A black Ladies Ugg Slipper with an insole had a reprocessed canvas under the insole. Some of them had Shatnez.  This slipper had a band across the lip of the slipper with two metal fasteners on each end.  There is prominent white stitching surrounding connecting the slipper to the sole.

Jan ’18 – From the desk of the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory Please note, when testing an Ugg slipper, remember to remove the insole. Underneath lays a reprocessed canvas that requires testing. See pictures.

    • REPORT #3 – A pinkish/red ladies canvas shoe with a ropelike lace at the front (no eyelets) has an upper part of the shoe that is made of a linen blend. A piece of wool is sometimes attached to the heel under the insole.

Lady’s Canvas Shoe – Dec ’17 – From the desk of the Shatnez Test Center South Laboratory – R’ Moshe Zisow [Lakewood]

A red Ugg lady’s canvas shoe was brought to the Lakewood Shatnez Test Center, for testing.

The upper part of the shoe was a linen blend. A piece of wool was attached to the heal, inside the shoe.

See Picture.

    • REPORT # 4 – The popular woolen boot (suede on outside fleece on inside) similar to the one depicted in this picture have a rim near the sole that has at times contained a linen blend. That one, however, was manufactured in Australia and was white in color.

Ugg Boots – Dec ’17 – From the desk of the Gateshead Shatnez Laboratory – R’ Binyomin Benjamin

A Woolen Ugg boots was brought to the Gateshead Shatnez Laboratory. The bottom rim by the sole is a Linen blend.

    • REPORT #5 – The striped furry [made of wool, actually] slipper (18 gray stripes 18 white ones) is made of a linen blend on top.

Ugg slippers – From the desk of the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory

The UGG (Australia) slipper shown in the picture to the left was tested by R’ Yosef Sayagh in the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory.

The outer fabric was linen and cotton. The black threads are linen and the white threads are cotton.

The inside of the slipper is lined with wool.

    • REPORT #6 – The pink Australian shoe sneaker (women’s) labelled 85% wool and 15% nylon is actually mislabeled. It is actually a linen/cotton blend.  The inside (by the heel) has a wool insert.

Ugg Canvas Shoe Sneaker – From the desk of the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory

This UGG (Australia) shoe sneaker shown in the picture to the right was tested by R’ Yosef Sayagh in the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory.

The outer fabric was listed as 85% Wool, 15% Nylon. It was mislabeled; it really was a linencotton blend. The inside of the shoe sneaker had some wool attached to it.

  • REPORT #7 – The Ugg black Mocassins (full shoe) with the wool fleece lining may have a a starched piece of linen behind the tag. Not all of them have it.

Ugg Moccasin – From the desk of the Montreal Shatnez Laboratory – Rabbi Michael Harrosch

Just found underneath the wool fleece lining, of an Ugg moccasin slipper a piece of starched linen. It was located behind the tag, see pictures.

  • There are numerous manufacturers that Deckers uses for Uggs.
  • Many Shatnez labs have taken apart Uggs shoes and have found no linen.

So What is New?

On February 14th, there was a communication sent from one of the customer care representatives to a woman named Chaya. The Customer Care rep, M. Tafoya, stated that all of the Decker Ugg shoes, in fact, contain linen.  It was this communication which set off the firestorm.

The problem is that many Shatnez laboratories across the country have not been able to locate the linen on all of the brands. Some of the labs have located the linen on the ones that were previously known to have Shatnez. The halachic question now arises as to whether we should be concerned for the statement made by the representative, or do we rely on the Chazakos that we have relied upon for years in regard to shatnez checking?

The Uggs representatives are now telling customers that they are checking with the product teams in order to convey to their consumers accurate and precise information.  They are not categorically stating that all of the shoes contain linen.

This question was posed to a number of Gedolei HaPoskim, and the answers will be included here as soon as they arrive. 

At 7:00 PM on Monday evening the following response was heard from Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlita: 

Until word is received from more senior people at Uggs (no customer service representatives) as to whether or not all the shoes contain linen, one may rely upon the fact that apart from the seven known models, the Shatnez checkers have not found the linen.  This is not a heter, but rather a method of conduct concerning the wearing of the Uggs until more information comes in.**

UPDATE #2

We received the following communication from UGGS representative:

Hi Rabbi Yair,

I represent UGG – I’m with their communications firm – and I caught your story: https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/general/1681530/ugg-controversy-do-uggs-have-shatnez-an-update.html.

I’m providing a response below from the company.

We have been contacted by numerous members of the Jewish community following the release of erroneous information that our products contain both wool and linen. Please be assured that none of our current UGG® footwear products contain both wool and linen. Thank you.

Thx,

Scott Cianciulli

www.theplunkettgroup.com

UPDATE # 3

Statement from Shatnez Lab in Lakewood, NJ (Rabbi Y. Sayagh)

The response from the company indicates that none of the current UGG@ footwear products contain both wool and linen.  They do not discuss the past.  Also, just this evening Shatnez was found in a new pair of UGG moccasins.

Also Rav Dovid Harfenes Shlita ruled that the company does have ne’emanus if they put it in ksav – in writing.

UPDATE # 4

Rav Shlomo Miller Shlita also ruled that the Uggs (other than the 7) are permitted and there is no need to be concerned for the note from the Customer Claims Representative.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




36 COMMENTS

  1. Just goes to show, the customer service rep doesn’t know anything. Even if an uman is believed under certain circumstances, that only applies to the uman himself, or the owner of the company. CSR is never believed bein lechumrah bein lekulah.

  2. ” Just suits & coats.”
    1) Neckties can have shaatnez
    2) Sweaters and pants can have shaatnez.
    3) Some couches and chairs can have shaatnez.
    4) Some carpets may contain shaatnez.
    5) There are gloves (baseball gloves included, although there may be heterim there) which have shaatnez concerns.
    6) Hats, in particular Russian style winter hats, caps, and other head coverings have been found to contain shaatnez.
    7) There was even an issue with one type (brand / source) of talis gadol.

  3. “I’ve never thought nor known anybody to check footwear for Shatnez. Just suits & coats…”
    You may want to take a broader view of what items of “clothing” may be problematic from a shatnes perspective. I recall years ago reading about a shatnes “scandal” when it was discovered that certain Turkish wool Talesim used by Belz and Skvere chassidim were found to contain shatnes. Who would have thunk?? Uggs and Turkish talesim….

  4. We desperately need Rav Yosef Rosensberg ZTKLLH’H and Rav Dov Berkowitz ZTKLLH’H back in the Sha’atnez testing business. They were so much on top of issues just like this, and were such Mumchim in catching even the most obscure of things. We so sorely miss both of them.

  5. to genuk shoin
    Why no ben torah should wear them , think before you talk,
    They sell them in Australia as regular black, grey, mens and ladies slippers, nice and warm,
    Hope they are not shatnez as we bought about 50 pairs.

  6. Perhaps the methods or the equipment used for testing needs to be evaluated. I dont know what equipment, chemicals, or methods are used, but if numerous positives are coming up, despite the company’s assurances that theres no linen, maybe its operator or equipment error….

  7. “Where does Shulchan Aruch state that carpets have to be checked for shaatnez? Where is the “lo silbash” on carpeting?

    ON the floor, obviously not, but you increasingly see men’s and women’s jackets (especially “jeans” material jackets) using remnants from old carpets (especially kilims and other “oriental” theme rugs) as decorative panels sewn on to the backs of the jackets and coats. Many of these rugs were woven using both wool and linen and/or silk. Not a big concern unless you are both frum and also lean towards the more contemporary and cutting edge fashion styles.

  8. A short hard carpet is not a problem, but if it’s a plush carpet, so the foot sinks into it and parts of it are up against the sides of the foot and could potentially warm it then it’s forbidden (שמא תכרך נימה על בשרו).

  9. I don’t understand – how can a company have ‘ne’emanus’ if they stated:
    a) “all of their products have linen” – most likely a mistake, because the article points out that Shatnez testers completely took apart Ugg shoes and still failed to locate any linen, and
    b) “none of their products have shaatnez” – clearly proven as a lie, based on all of the examples of shaatnez listed in this very article?? Besides that the two statements contradict each other.

    Perhaps the statement “Rav Dovid Harfenes Shlita ruled that the company does have ne’emanus if they put it in ksav – in writing” was originally said in general about companies, but not this specific case?

  10. “Perhaps the methods or the equipment used for testing needs to be evaluated.”

    Do shatnez labs proactively check things for shatnez?

    Perhaps if more things were brought in to be checked…..

  11. A company has a nemonous if they put it writing, I would question that neemonous by UGG.
    Their rep wrote that all of their items have linen.
    The UGG content labels were found not to be accurate, that’s enough to say that the chazakah of neemonous does not exist by UGG.

  12. Statement from Shatnez Lab in Lakewood, NJ (Rabbi Y. Sayagh)

    The response from the company indicates that none of the current UGG@ footwear products contain both wool and linen. They do not discuss the past. Also, just this evening Shatnez was found in a new pair of UGG moccasins.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    This new pair of moccasins, is it from the CURRENT year or did someone buy it on Amazon or DSW where they likely purchased a style from one or more previous seasons.

  13. Of interest is that some of the religious sellers of chasidish clothing, bekeshes, etc. they have no nemonous at all in regard to shatnez, and they will mislead, misinform the consumer re: Shatnez.

  14. @talmidchochom:

    “Where does Shulchan Aruch state that carpets have to be checked for shaatnez? Where is the “lo silbash” on carpeting?”

    I do not have the simanim in front of me right now, but the “Reader’s Digest” version is as follows (I believe).

    The “requirement” to WEAR shaatnez, is in order to transgress min ha’Torah. The issur d’Rabbonon of shaatnez includes chairs, carpets, etc.

    The Mishnah Berurah brings one needs to be careful that his tefillin / tallis bag is not shaatnez for since one carries it against his body and it provides warmth, it may not contain shaatnez. This is even though these are NOT worn.

    There are circumstances, I think, when if the issur is d’Rabbonon, there may be a heter of bitul, and may effect the obligation to check, but if, when, and how to apply that requires a she’eilas Chachom.

  15. I once bought a Carpet and saw on the label it is made of 80wool and 20 linen.
    I called Rabbi Roth BP dyan and he told me I can’t use it because usually you sit on the floor when playing with kids or any other reason and when sitting shattnes rules apply

  16. Final Halacha re: UGG.
    The UGG company at this time 2/20 2019 12:00 PM does not know themselves what is the content is of all of their products, therefore All of them may not be worn till tested by a Qualified Shatnez tester.

    This concurs with Rav Palatchik’s ruling.

  17. genuk shoin said: February 18, 2019 7:54 pm at 7:54 pm
    uggs are chalooooschis no ben torah or prince should wear thos” let it all hang out” teenage things on their feet. foiiiii

    I SAY LIVE AND LET LIVE!!!!!! WHAT A CHUTZPA!!!!!!! Happens to be my daughters were not interested. But for you to bash winter gear in public is not nice!

  18. @Milhouse – “Rebyossel, only if it’s a plush carpet into which you sink when walking or sitting. If it’s short and hard then it’s allowed.”

    That is not completely correct. There should be an issur d’Rabbonon even on low pile carpets for the reasons mentioned by a number of commentators above. As with any halachic issue, ask your LOR to be sure.

  19. “All of them may not be worn till tested by a Qualified Shatnez tester. . . This concurs with Rav Palatchik’s ruling.”

    Neither Rav Dovid Feinstein’s nor Rav Miller seem to fully agree with the above p’sak.

  20. Based on the latest facts on 2/21/19, there were additional UGG found to contain Shatnez.
    Therefore, No UGG item may be worn unless tested first by a qualified Shatnez tester.

  21. Feb. 20, 2019

    Update: As more consumers are testing their woolen Ugg items for shatnez, more instances of Ugg items containing both wool and linen are being found. This underscores the importance for consumers to test for shatnez even those Ugg items in which shatnez has not yet been found, as stated by HaRav Polatsek shlit”a.

  22. @Milhouse – I will try to find seif/siman for you or at least a mar’eh makom, but I have asked this sheilah before, somewhat learned the “sugya”, and discussed with at least two, maybe three, shaatnez experts and they all said as I write above. I will check again and let you know, bli neder.